Executives: Charlie Comiskey

Love him or hate him, he was just taking advantage of the rules.

Charles Albert Comiskey was born on August 15, 1859 in Chicago, Illinois. His father was an alderman in Chicago, and he was so popular that he was given the name “Honest John”. The elder Charles wanted his son to be a plumber, but his son had other ideas. The younger Charles wanted to be a baseball player, but in order to discourage him, Charles sent his son Charles to Saint Mary’s College in Kansas. Unfortunately, that was the best thing for young Charles’ career.

Comiskey met Ted Sullivan, the owner of a team in Milwaukee, who asked him to come play for his semi-pro team. Before 1879, first basemen played with their foot on the bag to start the play, but Sullivan taught Comiskey to play off the bag in order to increase range and get to more balls. Comiskey tried it, and the strategy became such a success that now it’s a common sense practice. Three years later, Comiskey took a step forward and became a member of the American Association, playing for the St. Louis Browns. He wasn’t a particularly good player, but his biggest impact would come as a manager. While player-manager, he led his team to 4 consecutive championships, and as a manager for his 15 seasons, he was 839 and 542 (he also managed the Chicago Pirates and Cincinnati Reds).

In 1894, Comiskey began a new career as an owner. He left Cincinnati to buy a team in Sioux City, Iowa, and he immediately moved it to St. Paul, where it became the St. Paul Saints. Not really content in St. Paul, Comiskey negotiated with the National League in order to bring his team to Chicago and share the city. Not seeing him as a serious threat, they allowed it. In 1900, Comiskey moved his team to Chicago where they became the White Stockings. The next season, the American League became an official major league, and the battle was on. Over the next thirty years, Comiskey would help build Comiskey Park in 1910 and oversaw five American League championships.

Comiskey’s career, however, was not all happy. Referred to as “frugal” by his supporters, Comiskey was closer to stingy and outright abusive to his players. His players frequently made less than $5,000 a season in a time where most still made over $10,000, but because free-agency didn’t exist, there wasn’t a thing a guy like Shoeless Joe Jackson could do. When Comiskey promised Eddie Cicotte $10,000 for winning 30 games, he benched the pitcher in order to avoid paying him once Cicotte reached 29 wins. When the 1919 Black Sox scandal occurred, one reason for it was that the players had been so underpaid. The bet was easy money. Originally, Comiskey supported his players but ultimately supported Landis and the MLB. Deprived of his best players, he, karmically, never saw his team have another winning record.

Despite his reputation being tarnished, Comiskey still went in the Hall of Fame in 1939.


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